Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Tunisian Vacation: Love, Hate and Terrorism

Over Labor Day weekend, my husband and I belatedly celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary by going to an exotic beach resort.  We lay in the sun, sipped cool drinks, wandered around a fortress and marketplace, and enjoyed being together, alone.  We returned from Tunisia to Belgrade 2 weeks ago from today.  Yes.  Tunisia.

Last Saturday morning, my husband motioned me over to the computer.  There it was, the US embassy and American Cooperative School, surrounded by dry, tan earth, and covered by a huge, gunmetal grey plume of smoke.

We were there.  Two weeks ago.  It's a weird feeling, this particular fear gnawing inside my stomach.  Something I can't quite put my finger on, that we were toying with possible danger.  I guess, though, anywhere you go you toy with danger.  That's what we tell ourselves in this crazy life we live.  We pull stats about murders in Chicago, DC and New York City and compare them with the places we live, saying, "People live normal lives there, so can we here."  That's what we said when we lived in Guatemala City, a critical crime post.  Home invasions were common there.  I saw my first dead bodies on the street there.  My husband watched a man rip gold hoop earrings out of a woman's ears.  I lived behind 12ft walls with razor wire on top.  We were mugged at gun point with our three-year-old son.  Luckily, it was only for my husband's cell phone which he readily gave.  I know danger.

This feeling I have, though, is different.  I could take measures in Guate, reduce my risk.  I could drive in the prescribed neighborhoods, with my windows up and not drive at night.  I could not wear my jewelry outside.  I had my security system.  I had my pit bull and chow chow (the Guatemalan security guards in my neighborhood called them my "entourage").  People did distrust me there, hated me even.  They saw that I was privileged, white, and American.  I couldn't blend (uh, 5'7" with light brown hair), but I could find ways to help people and help change their minds and their lives.   I worked in the city dump, helping to educate the children there, helping them to realize the value of their lives, and life in general.  I helped change some minds.  I was afraid there, but thought that I had a chance to be heard, to change things little by little.  I had some control.  This fear I'm feeling now is different.

It's the same fear I felt on September 11.  That by no direct doing of my own, I was responsible, a representative of my country, a target for hate.  The blanket covers all Americans, old and young.  I am American and a woman.  I can't change that.  Well, I guess I could, but I won't.   My conversation with many Muslim leaders would stop before it even started.   I feel as if it's totally out of my control.  I don't know quite what to do to change this hate.  What can I do?  What can an American woman do?

It's the hate that's driving all this.  I'm not sure any kind of "War on Terror," has a chance against hate.  I tend to agree with Marvin Gaye, "Only love can conquer hate,"  Yes, I know it's sappy, and I was hoping the quote's origin extended well before the 20th century, but it didn't.  I googled it (so, it must be true).  It all started with Marvin.


There's always a "but" (Why am I always reminded of Beavis and Butthead when I write that?  Ah, the  wisdom of my generation).

when it comes to giving love and forgiveness to people who hate me and have killed innocent people, I'm with Michael Stipe, in the song Final Straw, "And I offer love with one condition/ with conviction, tell me why, . . . look me in the eye, tell me why"  I can't without conditions.  And conditions won't work.  I won't ever get a satisfactory answer.  Following Marvin's edict is easier sung than done.  So, again, what do I do?  What do we do?  Does someone have the answer out there?

Maybe, "Love will find a way."

Okay, enough song references. Sorry, I couldn't resist.   I don't mean to make light of the situation.  Seriously,  what can we do?

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